August 24, 2005

Faculty Senate Meeting - August 24, 2005

Meetings of the Faculty Senate are open to all members of the University community, but may be closed at the discretion of the Senate.

Meeting time 12:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. in McMurtry Auditorium in Duncan Hall


I. Approval of May 11, 2005 Minutes

II.Election of Executive Committee

III. Appointment of Parliamentarian

IV. Report of the bylaws committee:



Meeting rules

Term staggering

V. Other fairly urgent issues

  University Council Representatives

  Vacant positions

i. Non-Tenure Track - Research Faculty

ii. Assistant Professor Rank - Professional Schools

iii. Any Rank -Natural Sciences

  Academic calendars for 2006/2007 and beyond

VI. Meeting Schedule for Fall 2005

VII. Senate goals for 2005-2006

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August 24, 2005 (first Faculty Senate Meeting of academic year 2005-2006)

Attendance:  Approximately 35

Senate members present: Jose Aranda, Kyriacos Athanasiou, Randy Batsell, John Casbarian, Marjorie Corcoran, Rebekah Drezek, Bruce Etnyre, Deborah Harter, John Hempel, Brian Huberman, Benjamin Kamins, Thomas Killian, Eugene Levy (ex officio), David Leebron (ex officio), Nancy Niedzielski, Anthony Pinn, Carol Quillen, David Schneider, Gautami Shah, Michael Stern, Randy Stevenson, Joe Warren, Mark Wiesner, Duane Windsor, James Young. Senate member absent: Vicki Colvin.

Faculty Senate Speaker Marj Corcoran called to order the Faculty Senate meeting in McMurtry Auditorium of Duncan Hall at 12:05 p.m. and began with announcements:

  • Sarah Holloman, Executive Assistant to Faculty Senate, is leaving Rice. The process of finding her replacement has begun.
  • Simon Grant has resigned from Faculty Senate. Four Senate vacancies now exist.
  • The Faculty Senate web page will be on-line soon. It will contain meeting minutes, Power Point slides used during meetings, pertinent documents and information, and it will serve as an archive for Faculty Senate. In the future, minutes will be posted on-line for review and approval prior to Senate meetings.

I. Approval of May 11, 2005 Minutes :   On motion duly made and seconded, the minutes of the May 11, 2005 Faculty Senate meeting were APPROVED.

II. Election of the Executive Committee :   Corcoran explained that until the Bylaws Committee's proposed changes in the structure of the Executive Committee are finalized and approved, the Executive Committee would be appointed in accordance with those procedures set forth in the Task Force document approved by the faculty.

Corcoran proposed one change from these procedures, however. She suggested the Senate approve the Executive Committee for one year only rather than for a two-year staggered term. At the end of this academic year, with regular procedures in place, the Executive Committee could then be reconstituted. Deborah Harter asked if members of the Executive Committee appointed this year would be eligible to continue next year. Corcoran replied they could continue.

A motion was made to limit, to one year, the terms of those members elected to the first Executive Committee,   with the possibility of continuing. A vote was taken and the motion was APPROVED.

Corcoran explained that the original Task Force document called for an Executive Committee comprised of one member from each of the schools. In preparation for this meeting,   therefore, and after consultation with Harter and with several members of the bylaws committee, she had asked Senate members from the each of Rice's schools to provide their choice for membership on the Executive Committee. (She did not ask natural sciences and the humanities for representatives since these are already represented by the speaker and deputy speaker.)   This produced the following slate of names:

Marj Corcoran             Natural Sciences

Deborah Harter             Humanities

Rebekah Drezek             Engineering

David Schneider             Social Sciences

Duane Windsor             Professional Schools

Corcoran reiterated that this was certainly ad hoc and that future elections to the Executive Committee would follow a formally approved procedure, one that might reflect a very different (and hopefully far better) approach to assuring that this committee reflect the widest possible university interests.

It was moved that the proposed slate be accepted. A vote was taken and this slate was APPROVED for membership on the Executive Committee.

Corcoran then called for discussion of the three at-large members to be elected to the Executive Committee, suggesting that she and Harter wished to recommend as nominees first Gautami Shah ( non-tenure-track teaching faculty), since she is the only non-tenure track teaching faculty on the Senate and would be able to speak for this constituency, and also Jose Aranda (Humanities), someone who works closely with minority students and who is also the Senate's only member who is also a college master.

Corcoran asked for nominations from the Senate floor and for discussion.

There was discussion about what criteria ought to go into putting together the Executive Committee beyond that of representation of the schools. There were concerns about the inadequacy of having only one representative for all of the professional schools. It was noted that there might be important constituencies among the faculty not represented by the slate being considered.

In the course of discussion, the following were nominated from the Senate floor:  

Ben Kamins, Shepherd School of Music

Randy Stevenson, Social Sciences

A motion was made to close nominations. Corcoran commented that there was no one on this list that she would like to exclude and moved to expand the Executive Committee to nine, just for this year, in order to include all those nominated. A motion was made and seconded to elect to Executive Committee the four members whose names had been solicited. A vote was taken and the motion was APPROVED.

III. Report of the Bylaws Committee :   Randy Stevenson, Chair of the Bylaws Committee, related that the initial drafts of a constitution, bylaws, and meeting rules had been distributed two weeks earlier and that these drafts reflected the Bylaws Committee's effort to set up an efficient organization for the Senate. As his committee had received comments they had made revisions and this process was still ongoing. He requested that the Senate view the several drafts as alternative drafts not as sequential drafts. He also indicated that the latest draft was an effort to reconcile certain differences in approach between his committee and the original task-force. He hoped that as people continued to comment on these drafts, they indicate clearly the draft to which they were referring.

Stevenson explained that the Bylaws Committee had two main goals in putting together these three documents. First, they saw the Senate as doing more than just replacing the plenary body of the faculty. It was not just to be an approval body but a working body that would, as a group, come up with issues to be investigated and policies to be implemented.

A system was therefore envisioned whereby there would be a set of standing committees to which the Executive Committee of the Senate could delegate most of the work. This had several implications:

The Executive Committee would become the coordinating body of this committee system, doing long term planning and setting agendas but not working up the detailed provisions of potential policies.

The Executive Committee would achieve coordination with the committees by being composed of the chairs of each of the standing committees. This would break the link between representation (by school or constituency) and the Executive Committee, but the Bylaws Committee felt this was not a difficulty since this new and different Executive Committee would not be an all-powerful, policy-making body. This structure was perhaps the biggest departure from the one proposed by the Task Force document.   

This system seemed to accomplish well the separation of the two functions the newly constituted Senate needed to accomplish. The Bylaws Committee wished to keep separate the Senate's approval function (the one that used to be accomplished by the plenary faculty) and its working function (the function that previously took place in Faculty Council). A particular goal was to take away from the Senate, during its large meetings, the ability to propose new things, to innovate, and to speculate, activities that were best done in committees and working groups. The meeting rules would be drafted, indeed,   in order to make for efficient meetings geared to deciding rather than creating, and with a view to taking away the ability of individual Senators coming to meetings with motions to propose. A process was created to get items on the agenda.

Stevenson explained that when the original draft was released, the comments received seemed to speak to three particular   issues.

Many were concerned not to lose representation on the Executive Committee.

There was concern that the proposed standing committee structure could conflict with the structure of University standing committees. (Stevenson noted that his committee had already responded to this issue in the new draft by replacing the word "committee" with "working group" or "task force" throughout the document. The intention was never for these committees or working groups to conflict with or replace current University standing committees.)

While the Bylaws Committee felt it was important to send the Constitution back to the full faculty for approval, there was sentiment from Senate members opposing this. Many felt that creating a higher bar for changes to the constitutional portion of Senate governance would be sufficient.

Stevenson requested Senate member's opinions about these issues so that another draft, reflecting more closely the sense of the Senate, could be created.

Harter noted that during the previous week she and the speaker and members of the Bylaws Committee had met with several members of the original task force in order to get their particular response to the current draft documents.    Here, she said, it became clear that a principle difference between the task force vision and the Bylaws Committee vision lay precisely in the function of the Executive Committee. Harter underlined that it was critical we think about the sort of relationship we wished to build between the Executive Committee and the larger Senate.

Corcoran added that several members of the original Task Force felt strongly that the representative nature of the Executive Committee was something they had promised to the larger faculty and that some members of the faculty would be upset if a radical departure from this was made.

Randy Batsell insisted that representation is essential--that we would raise issues, otherwise, with faculty who had counted on this.

Stevenson suggested that perhaps the Executive Committee could reflect a core representational group but, at any given time, could be expanded to include ex officio members from working groups where this was relevant and helpful to the Executive Committee.

President David Leebron expressed caution with regard to the idea of creating an Executive Committee whose members viewed their primary function as one of representing a particular school. He pointed to the need to ensure that other points of view and other constituencies not be excluded so that an Executive Committee be created that was representational along multiple, rather than merely school-based, vectors. He added that a nominating committee would be able to explore all these issues.

David Schneider seconded the President's position, noting that school-based representation as a priority can be highly deficient. He preferred we have a nominating committee who could do the work of trying to balance the vast numbers of representative issues involved.

Carol Quillen wished to return to the question of the relationship between the executive committee and the Senate. What did we feel, as a Senate, this relationship should be?

Gautami Shah suggested that the Bylaws Committee had in mind a "bottom-up" structure.

Stevenson said that there had been concern about what would happen if Senate members were not active enough, indicating that a strong Executive Committee partially compensated for this difficulty.

Tom Killian countered that we should not structure our governance assuming our senators will not be active. We should both hope, and insist, that they be active.

Harter seconded Killian, noting that the Senate would be more effective to the degree all were involved in important decision-making.

Jose Aranda also wished to second Killian, suggesting that a Senate in which all members are active is desirable.

Stevenson moved that discussion turn to the Constitution, suggesting we delay any vote to approve this until the next Senate meeting. He asked whether the Senate felt the Constitution should go back to the full faculty for ratification or whether instead it merely required a majority vote of the Senate, with a stipulation that it would require a two/thirds majority vote in the Senate to amend.

Duane Windsor stated his understanding that the Task Force document specified a set of principles under which the Senate was to operate, and that the Senate was to adopt Bylaws for the implementation of those principles. He saw nothing in the Task Force document that required a constitution be brought back to the faculty for ratification. After some limited discussion, there was agreement that no ratification by the full faculty was mandated.

Bob Patten added, excusing his interrupting from his place in the non-Senate audience, that there was indeed no mechanism in place for returning to the full faculty for ratification of the Constitution.

Stevenson asked that Senate members consider the following questions:

  • Is it necessary, through whatever mechanism can be created, to go back to the full faculty with the constitutional portion of the rules?
  • Is it definitely unnecessary to go back to the full faculty with the Constitution?
  • Is there strong feeling that there should be some form of representative structure on the Executive Committee?

Corcoran reminded Senate members that this was just the beginning of the dialogue and encouraged everyone to send comments to Randy Stevenson via the Senate list serve.

IV. Other fairly urgent issues

A. University Council representatives - Corcoran indicated the need to select six representatives to University Council. The Speaker and Deputy Speaker are on University Council, bringing the total number of faculty on University Council to eight. Without a nominating committee in place, she suggested that perhaps the members of the Executive Committee could simply be asked to serve on University Council as well.

Quillen was worried about overburdening the members of the Executive Committee by joint membership on both committees. Rebekah Drezek explained that University Council is not in fact a very burdensome task, but she did not necessarily believe it should be a one-on-one match with the Executive Committee. President Leebron agreed, saying he did not necessarily think it was an ideal way of proceeding since University Council was a very different sort of body. Patten agreed as well that the University Council representatives from faculty should not be members of the Executive Committee, with the exception of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker.

Corcoran asked if University Council members needed to be members of the Faculty Senate. President Leebron answered that the Senate selected the Council members, but that Council was not limited to individuals from the Senate. Harter asked if the selection needed to be made at the current meeting. President Leebron advised it could wait. With no other mechanism currently in place, Gautami Shah suggested using the Executive Committee this year as the nominating committee to come up with a slate of names, which could then be presented to the Senate. Corcoran agreed this was something the Executive Committee would take up, saying she hoped they would be able to provide a slate of names to the Senate at its meeting on September 21.

B. Vacant positions :   Corcoran pointed out there were now four vacant positions on Faculty Senate. The original Task Force document stipulated vacancies would be filled by an election. The four vacant positions are:  

Social Sciences - any rank

Research Faculty - non-tenure track faculty

Natural Sciences - any rank

Professional Schools - assistant professor

Corcoran requested that members of Faculty Senate suggest appropriate candidates so that an election could be held in a timely manner.

C. Academic Calendars for 2006/2007 and beyond - Corcoran explained that a committee worked during the summer on calendars. After review by the President's Office, drafts were distributed to the Faculty Senate. Senate members were asked to choose between two options for the spring term of 2006. As of this date, few Senate members had voted, and Corcoran encouraged all to do so via email to Mark Scheid.

Corcoran commented that calendars for two academic years were submitted to the President's Office. Mark Scheid explained that only one academic year calendar was being voted upon due to the fact that a template was being created to enable the calendar to be projected out four or five years in the future to enable conference planning and various similar events.

V. Meeting schedule - Corcoran displayed the meeting schedule for fall 2005 and reminded Senate members of the State of the University address to be delivered by President Leebron on Wednesday, September 7, at 4:00.

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 2:10.